Controlling your Digital Tattoo

Photo by Kordula0867, CC0

The term “digital footprint” is misleading. A footprint in the sand is washed away by the waves. It isn’t that simple or quick in the digital world. The term “digital tattoo” is more apt because a tattoo cannot be easily and completely removed without leaving signs it was once there.

While we cannot control what other say about us on the Internet, we can control how we represent ourselves. I use several social networks, and all of them are geared towards a slightly different audience. I am highly aware that no matter what my privacy settings are, and that as soon as I put anything on the Internet, I am no longer in control of how it will be used, copied, and distributed. There is no magical erase once something is posted. It’s there forever.

The following are my personal guidelines for using Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Facebook.


Twitter is my favourite social network. It allows me to share professional information with others who have similar interests.

  1. Know the topics you want to tweet about and stay within those parameters. I generally don’t mix professional and personal on my Twitter feed. Sure, I’ll have conversations with people I’m connected to, but I’m cognisant that this is a public forum, thus, the conversation will never be too personal.
  2. I use the DM function to share specific information that I don’t want all my followers to read. However, I’m still aware of the public nature of Twitter and do not trust the privacy of the network. If I want to connect with people I’ve met on Twitter, I’ll DM them my email and we’ll chat there.
  3. I don’t want tweeps to think that I’m all business and no fun. I’ve made the conscious decision to send out tweets about CFL and NFL games. These are sporadic and usually amount to only tow or three tweets a month.


LinkedIn is often underrated as a social network to share information. It’s important to know your audience and remember that this is a public forum. I only link with people I know or who I have a long and solid online history with.

  1. Post only professional related information. People I’m connected are mostly in three industries; therefore I don’t share information that I don’t think these people will be interested in.
  2. My connections know me professional so I want to support their professional accomplishment. I “Like” my connections anniversaries, I send my connections a congratulatory message when they get a new job or promotion, and try to add to one discussion in one group that I belong to about once a week.
  3. I don’t cross-post my tweets on LinkedIn because that is not the purpose of the network

Google Plus

I recently cleaned up my circles so that it’s populated only with those I interact with professionally.

  1. This is the social network I use the least, but I’m also aware that this is a perfect place to disseminate information at a deeper level then I could just using Twitter.
  2. Belonging to communities is an important aspect of G+. I have chosen six communities and try to check them about once a week. This is where I can find and connect with people in my industry and also share relevant information.
  3. I’ve careful about what I sent out to those in my circles. I don’t cross-pollinate between circles, but I will post in both a community and to a circle.
  4. Everything that Google does, and owns, is used to gather information about its users. I’m very aware that Google is tracking everything I post and who I have in my circles to it can gather information about me


Facebook is my personal online presence. Again, I’m aware that this is a public forum, and that nothing is truly private, particularly with the ever-changing FB privacy policy. I approach the network as if everyone in the world can see everything I post. My friends are a mix of personal friends, and former colleagues.

  1. I mix personal and a bit of professional here. I comment on CFL, as well as post where I’ve travelled, and pictures I’ve taken.
  2. I don’t share articles about my professional interests, unless I think most of my friends will be interested.
  3. I only like five corporations/organization and almost any business/organization that friends/followers have personally created and own. Facebook gathers such information about all users, and I have made the decision not to support the curation and exploitation of users’ data

General tips:

  1. Have several disposable email addresses. I have one for all my social network sign ups, anther for professional connections, another for company (non-personal) connections, another for mailing list, etc. I do this because if one email is compromised, or inundated with spam, I can easily discard it.
  2. I manually remove cookies and other website data from my computer immediately after leaving any social network website. This makes it more difficult for the sites to track other sites I visit.
  3. Be aware that nothing is private on the web. I rarely post negative comments and am very judicious about negative comments about companies. You never know when comments will come back to haunt you
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